Control! Finally a fruit of the Spirit that is all about control!! All of the other ones—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and faithfulness–have challenged us to stop trying to control our lives and push our faith into vulnerable areas. Which then become memorable, faith-shaping times. But still so hard.
Finally control. But it’s not the kind of control that we like which keeps us out of vulnerability. It is the control that pushes us to these brave moments of vulnerability.
And self is involved. We don’t get to “give it over to God” and wish the hard part away. We can’t easy button this to God. We have to enter ourselves—the self–into this. Oh God is faithful through it all but we have to be in with our skin to live our story.
What this means is when it comes to love, my self control will help me handle the heartbreak that love brings. I will not numb myself out of it but accept that heartbreak is a part of love. The world needs the heartbreak I risk. You too.
When it comes to joy, it means I am worthy to feel this joy—the spring-flowers-blooming and splashing-in-rain-puddles kind of joy. My self control will allow me to feel this full joy—and not choose a partial joy for fear that something bad is right around the corner. Or entertain the thoughts that I do not deserve this joy.
When it comes to peace, my self control is needed when I’m in those darkest moments and I cannot find my Plan B anymore and my world has seemingly stopped. It is in those darkest moments that peace beyond understanding fills my soul–if I don’t numb or divert my way out of the pain. I need my self control for that for sure.
When it comes to patience, my self control is needed to help me keep a long and slow temper towards God, others, and myself (what patience is). My self control helps me stay in vulnerability when I would rather have something fixed or over with.
When it comes to kindness, my self control is needed to keep me attached as I extend kindness to people, particularly people who I know will disappoint me and break my heart. God is present in desperate need so my presence is also needed to be Jesus-with-skin-on.
When it comes to goodness, I need my self control to help me live like I have a strong sense of love and belonging while having the bravery to be imperfect. Those are not easy words to live.
When it comes to gentleness, I need my self control to handle my anger (that is a part of gentleness) as I “go in” again and again and again into peoples’ lives, especially of those I love.
When it comes to faithfulness, I need my self control to help me endure through the seasons of silence so I don’t have regrets of making decisions because I was angry at God for being silent.
Sheesh. Self control is needed for brave living. I should be celebrating this truth with a “yippee!!! “ But no. Self control is me saying “I’m in” when I would rather run away and hide and stay hidden til the sun comes out again.
I’ve heard it said, “Don’t worry about the fruit. Just bask in the sunlight of his love, enjoy the rain of his blessing, and the fruit will automatically appear.” But faith does not work that way. My self is involved in this life of mine too. I have to daily be “in” every morning. Some mornings this is easy. Some mornings just getting out of bed is my self control committing me to be “in.”
Mark Twain famously said, “Bravery is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” Practicing these fruits of the Spirit involves vulnerability, thus fear. Every one of them. Every one of them challenge us to lose the control over our faith which we cling to dearly.
But to live this fruitful and brave life of faith…I judge that to be more important than my fear.
Thus life is a bit more exciting. Dare I say fruitful? It is.